The last two surprises

The last part of our trip saw us back where we began – London. Our trip back down south on the train wasn’t quite as civilized as the trip to Scotland. We happened to be travelling on the weekend of the English Football League finals – and it also just so happened that Newcastle was playing in the finals. Unfortunately for us, I had booked flex tickets for our train trip which meant that we did not have seats reserved for our 4.5hour train ride. And because the train was completely sold out and expected to be quite full, I could no longer get a seat reservation. Our choices were to chance it on the 10am train (our original planned departure time) OR get ourselves to the train station for first thing in the morning and hope that we were keen enough to beat the rush. We went with option B. The idea of attempting to squeeze ourselves and our luggage onto the train in a sea of football fans just did not seem like something I was prepared to do.

Thankfully for us, the decision paid off and we were able to walk through an empty station and on to an empty 7:30am train in Edinburgh. Things were very pleasant until we made our stop in Newcastle and a swarm of black and white clad football fans made their way on to the train. It quickly became very hectic – people were sitting in the luggage racks, on the floors and on our table (or at least resting themselves on it). Beers were cracked and chants began at 8:30. And of course, no trip with kids is complete without at least one person throwing up – the full train with half drunk Newcastle fans is when Mads decided to cross that part of the trip off the list. Once we made it to Kings Cross and off the train to the lively choruses of the fans, we hopped in a taxi and headed for our hotel. We got ourselves checked in and had a relaxing first afternoon and evening in the city.

We had saved a lot of the big ticket items for the end. London has no shortage of things to do and places to see so we had a fairly exciting final three days. The first day we headed across Westminster Bridge, got a good look at Big Bill (as Nora calls it), found the Abbey and made our way to Trafalgar Square where we ran into all our Newcastle friends. By now we were all cold and hungry enough to start looking for lunch.

We had tickets to see Matilda the Musical in the afternoon. Across the street from the theatre is the Seven Point Market. We grabbed some curry for lunch, some ice cream for dessert then settled in for the show.

Our seats were in the very back row of the theatre so while we didn’t have the best seats, we had the best time. The kids all rented binoculars, sang along, danced when they wanted and just thoroughly enjoyed all of it. I did too.

Day two was just as exciting as day one. Today though we traded in the live theatre for a behind the scenes look at Harry Potter. We had a lazy morning before boarding the bus to head out to Harry Potter world. We have already been to universal studios in Florida where they have a huge Harry Potter section so we had seen some of what they had to offer before but I was not prepared for the shear size of this place.

We spent almost 3 hours walking around and still didn’t see everything. We walked through the great hall, the forbidden forest, gringotts bank, diagon alley. We saw the hogwarts express, privet drive and just so many other Harry Potter secrets. All three of them were a bit mesmerized. It made for a pretty great afternoon.

Great Scot-land!

With the end of the Canary Islands we are down to the last week of our solo-parenting adventure. We fly out of London on the 1st, so with a week left I thought it would be fun to hop on the train and travel north to Edinburgh for a day and a half. I’ve never been to Scotland, the train was easy enough to book, and it seemed like a nice little add on for the end of the trip.

We spent our first night back in the UK at Gramma Gail’s house (Adam’s Aunt) and I’m confident this will end up being the highlight of Nora’s trip. Gail clearly has the same taste as Nora as everything shimmered and dazzled. All surfaces were silver and pink with as many jewels or jewelled accessories that would fit. Nora was just beside herself – she’s pretty well convinced that Gail is loaded. I’ve also since discovered that she helped herself to some of the jewelled perfume (“I just couldn’t help myself!”) as she has a very distinct aroma about her.

We set off mid-morning on Thursday from Shipley. We had to change trains twice, which was a bit hectic, but once we got on our final train we settled in for our journey. I love the train. It always feels so much more civilized than air travel. We had some lovely women who sat across from us – they reminded me so much of Beryl.

We had a wonderful day and a bit in Edinburgh. We stayed in a great family apartment style hotel that had more than enough room for all of us. We found a super cute little bookstore around the corner from us, where the kids each picked out a new book and got their receipt folded into an origami elephant! No trip to the UK is complete without at least one mean at Wetherspoons, so we tucked in for some fish and chips for our first night.

The second day was really just about wandering around and seeing what we could see in Edinburgh. We found our way to the Scot Monument, the Edinburgh Castle, an adorable little coffee shop, the Camera Obscura, Victoria Street, the Royal Mile, Tom Riddle’s grave and a few stops in between. We logged about 8km wandering up and down the hills of Edinburgh and ended the day completely satisfied. The Edinburgh stop was short, but did not disappoint. The city is so charming, I can’t wait to come back here with Jacob.

Final Days

Our last couple of days went basically the same as all the others. We finally hit a few days of really nice weather and we soaked it up as best we could.

The kids spent some more time at kids club while I spent some more time recharging poolside. The resort we are staying at is on the north coast of the island. There’s a beach about a 20 minute hike from the villas. One of the mornings while the kids were at kids club I took the opportunity to go check it out.

There’s an almost path to get from the hotel to the beach. It definitely looks like it’s been walked a few times but there are places where it disappears for a few metres before picking back up. I got about halfway there when I realized I didn’t have my phone, no one knew where I was and I have no idea if there’s anything that lives in the rocks and bushes that I wouldn’t want to meet. Thankfully it was an uneventful journey.

The beach itself is quite rocky, but still very pretty. It’s got lots of volcanic rocks, tide pools and crashing waves. It’s clearly a popular surfing spot. It probably wouldn’t be a top choice for a beach day, but it was very pretty. Kayla and I went back to check it out again and gathered some fun shells and coral. There was all kinds to choose from.

Our last full day we headed back in to town to try for another beach day. We weren’t as lucky with the weather but still had a nice day. I’m he Canary Islands portion of the adventure is now over and we will part ways with the Cookson clan as the kids and I do some train trips to the north and south.

Beach Days are the Best Days

Earlier in the week the kids and I sat down and planned out what we wanted to do while we were in Fuerteventura. The kids wanted to go to a few more days at Kids Club, play mini-golf and have another round at the water park. I wanted to take the bus in to town and explore the beach. We all decided that today would be that day.

Unfortunately the resort we are staying at is kind of at the end of the island. We are quite secluded out here. They do offer a twice daily bus shuttle into Lajares, the nearest town and then Carrelejo and the beach. I cannot miss up an opportunity to spend some time near the water on a sunny day so we set off, and I will say, this beach did not disappoint.

There is just something so soothing for me to be back on a beach. Particularly one as big as this with room to spread out. We didn’t have all our gear so we couldn’t set up for the kind of day we are used to, but we made the best of it. I made myself a sand chair and read for a bit. Charlie settled in and read as well. The girls made themselves right at home and built sand sculptures, buried each other and played in the waves. There will always be something magical about a beach to me. Nothing makes me appreciate our adventures more than being seaside. It instantly calms me and fills me with gratitude.

After a couple of hours at the beach it was time for lunch. We grabbed a cab into the city to check out the smaller beach and its beachside restaurants. I love grabbing a drink and a bite to eat while sitting in the sand, watching the people and listening to the water. We had a decent meal and headed to catch the bus back to the hotel. It was a really great day, probably my favourite of the trip so far. The only thing missing was Jacob.

Walking the Walls

The first few days of the trip were really all about getting the kids settled and doing the activities that they would find most interesting – the idea was that if it was things they liked, they would cooperate more and whine less. Turns out that was only partially true. So for the last day in York I wanted to walk the wall that runs around the perimeter of the city. It was really the only thing I wanted to do while we were there as it’s a nice way to see the city from a different angle.

After our mostly unpleasant day at the mini-golf I had very low expectations for the wall walk. The kids have been just generally moody this trip. I admittedly haven’t been at my best either. Parenting kids in a foreign country alone is difficult. It is throwing everyone off balance not having Jacob around. I don’t normally go this long without a break, and we don’t typically spend our nights sleeping in the same room or sharing a bed. Travelling with kids is already not for the faint of heart, doing it alone might just make me plain crazy.

The kids really pulled it together for our last day. I’m not sure if a good night’s sleep did it, or if they really did feel bad about their behaviour, but either way, it was very enjoyable. It’s about a 3km walk around the wall, although some sections haven’t remained and so you have to follow a marked path between those sections. It took us just shy of 2 hours. It was a bit cold for parts of the wall and we were all getting tired by the end, but the promise of a cupcake (and coffee) kept everyone marching on.

Kayla met us at Crumbs Cupcakery where we cashed in on our reward. We warmed up, refuelled and ended our time in York and week one of the vacation. Off to the Canary Islands in the morning!

The magic of Kids Club

We spent all of Wednesday traveling from York to Fuerteventura – between an Uber, a 4 hour flight and a 3 hour bus transfer we were pretty tired by the time we made it to our resort. We got ourselves fed and into bed to get ready for our first day of sunshine.

It always takes a day or two to get your bearings at one of these types of resorts. You need time to figure out where everything is, what time everything opens, and what the best cocktail is. First up on the list of things to sort was the waterpark. It’s half term in England right now so this place is overrun with children. This is very clearly a family centred resort as most of the activities seem to cater to young families.

The kids had a great morning, even if it was as a bit chilly. They all got their fill of the water park and made friends with Adam’s cousin Kirsty’s kids. It clouded over in the afternoon and became even cooler so we headed to the park for the afternoon. Everyone was still quite testy after the travel day so my attempt to sit poolside playing cards ended in dramatic fashion and we packed up and headed home for the day.

Thankfully before we headed home we found out about the free kids club. It runs every day from 10-1230 and 3-5 and they have different activities on each day. Our kids are built for a kids club. They love meeting new people, they love structured activities and they love enthusiastic adults, this club hit all three. The first day the activity for both the morning and afternoon session was creating and rehearsing a kids talent show. Nora could not have been more excited. Although, I was a close second.

After a full day of honing their crafts we got the girls hair show ready and headed for dinner. The kids show did not start until 9:30 but everyone needed to be there for 9:00 for costumes and makeup. These people are not fooling around. The kids all did a fabulous job – Charlie performed a magic trick as Olympus, the girls did a dance and gymnastics routine and everyone was pleased with their performance.

Shopping, Vikings and Potions

We needed to stock up on a few more supplies to make it through the rest of the trip and the small Primark was not cutting it so we set off for the Monks Cross Retail Shops Saturday afternoon. I love a good Primark shop and this one did not disappoint. A couple of hours, several hundred quid and many shopping bags later we all left with some new things to round out our wardrobe.

After shopping coffee and snack were in tall order so we nipped into Costa. Madeline’s day was ruined by the missed cookie opportunity so we finished our snacks and headed for home. When we took a quick look at the travelling options and realized that an Uber was going to be expensive with a long wait. When I figured out that the bus option included a double decker bus (sadly not red) the decision was easy. The kids got a great kick out of being on the second level and we made it home just in time for Sunday dinner and some board games.

Apparently the shopping trip was too much excitement as everyone had a hard time falling asleep Sunday night. Monday morning was slow to get going and despite having reservations to A Hole in Wand two of the three kids were foul. I will say, it was not a super pleasant day to be out wandering around. It was cold, damp and windy and there were people all over the place. The Viking festival is happening so spirits lifted marginally when we eventually made our way there. The kids got to try on Viking helmets and pose with weapons. The real treat though, was the face painting. While not strictly authentic, it was the highlight for most kids.

By this time I was in desperate need of a coffee and some reprieve from the cold. We attempted to find a smaller coffee shop that wasn’t just one of the main chains but quickly abandoned that idea when we were all getting impatient. We grabbed a latte and a cookie to share, dashing Madeline’s cookie dreams yet again. Now that I’ve been suitably caffeinated and the kids have been appropriately scolded for the constant whining it was time for mini-golf.

Keeping with the wizard/magic/Harry Potter theme that York seems so attached to, there is a 9 hole indoor mini-golf course cleverly named A Hole in Wand. It comes complete with your own potion drink and a puzzle that you need to solve while playing. The decorations were so well done, sadly they seemed to have forgotten that you would actually need room to maneuver while playing, and that it’s nearly impossible to play golf on linoleum. The kids mostly had fun, or at least I’m going to tell myself that. It’s hard to tell between the whining and arguing. At least we successfully solved the riddle and found the gargoyle, so the day wasn’t a total bust.

Wizards of York

York is really capitalizing on the Harry Potter and wizarding excitement. The shambles, despite not being connected to Harry Potter at all, does have a magical feel to it. So much so that they have a kids tour called the Wizarding Walk of York. Its a kids tour led by a wizard in full costume that does magic tricks at each stop of the tour. It comes complete with your own wand a leaflet of magic tricks to take home with you.

We headed in to city centre for the start of the tour with Kayla and Evelyn. Evs was already excited by the bus so her day was off to a great start. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and a coffee and found the meeting spot for the tour with a few minutes to spare. The kids were beginning to get impatient when our tour guide came strolling down the shambles. Any concerns we had about not being able to find the tour were relieved as he was dressed head to toe in purple wizarding robes, compete with hat, wand, carrying bag and stepping stool. The kids were pumped.

The tour lasted about an hour and was so well done. We walked around the shambles, down little alleyways, around the minster and back around to city centre. We made about half a dozen stops where he pointed out different parts of the city or buildings all while doing a magic trick. He stayed in character the whole time and was so engaging with the kids. He had them laughing and following along for the full hour. At the end of the tour we had our pictures taken with the kids new favourite wizard and then wrapped up the kids day and headed for home.

Lucky for me, Wendy agreed to watch all of the kids while Kayla Adam and I went out for tapas with Andrea and Joe. It was great finally getting to meet Andrea. We got to have a quick G&T at a fun little pub and then a delicious kid-free meal at Ambiente.